All Your Strength

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength [emphasis added].’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV).

Jesus now says we are “…to love the Lord your God …with all your strength” (v. 30d). Disney’s portrayal of strength is epitomized in the characterization of Hercules. He proves his strength by flexing his muscles as the devil measures him. If only it were that easy in real life! As we approach the New Year we should see this last phrase as a whole-hearted, life-encompassing allegiance to God. The context of our reading today stresses that treasuring God’s oneness and uniqueness needs to be personally applied to our lives. It needs to impact relationships, and what goes on at home and in the work place. Jesus is calling us to wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to God.

This truth means that every closet of our lives needs to be opened for cleaning, and every relationship in our lives must be influenced. This call to love God this way destroys any option of being one person at church and another person elsewhere. What you do on the internet needs to be just as pure as what you do in Bible-reading. The way we talk to our parents needs to be as wholesome as the way we talk to our pastors.

There needs to be an authentic love for God that starts with God-oriented affections, desires, and thoughts, that permeates our speaking and behavior, and then influences the way we spend our money and how we dress, and drive, and our forms of entertainment. Whether we’re eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, love for God is to be in action.

And, that means all of our energy. It’s interesting that the word Mark uses for “strength” also means “ability.” It means that God has given all of us talents and abilities. You see, to love God with all of our energy, with all of our abilities, with all of our spiritual gifts, is the means for our serving the Lord. It’s a way of expressing our love to Him. It means holding nothing back when it comes to our energy level in showing our love for God. It means that when we’re using all that energy in our vocation, or in school, we’re doing it because it is pleasing to God to make the most of our abilities for Him. We are loving God with all of our abilities, with all of our being, with all of our strength. There’s a focus for your New Year!